Election Commission’s Vigilance: Curbing Money Power and Ensuring Fair Elections

Election Commission’s Vigilance: Curbing Money Power and Ensuring Fair Elections

Source: IE

Relevance: GS 2: Governance

For Prelims: Model Code of Conduct , Representation of the People Act 1951, Election Commission of India

For Mains: Discuss the role of the Election Commission of India in the light of the evolution of the Model Code of Conduct. (2022)

 

Why in News: A recent video surfaced on social media depicting Tamil Nadu police confiscating Rs 69,400 from tourists. Although the money was eventually returned to the couple involved, the incident has drawn attention to the Election Commission’s strict regulations concerning the transportation of cash and other belongings during elections.Political parties wooing electorates with liquor, cash, household benefits  and drugs - The Economic Times

Measures to Curb Money Power:

    • Strict Vigilance on Cash and Liquor Movement: Authorities maintain stringent oversight on the transportation of cash, liquor, and other items of potential influence.
    • Pre-Election Directives from the Election Commission: Prior to each election, clear directives are issued by the Election Commission to various enforcement agencies including police, railways, airports, and the Income Tax department.
  • Monitoring of Various Items: Instructions encompass close monitoring of cash, liquor, jewellery, drugs, and gifts, which could be utilized for influencing voters during the electoral process.
  • District-wise Deployment: The Election Commission appoints expenditure observers for each district, complemented by static surveillance teams and flying squads.
  • Composition of Flying Squads: Flying squads are led by a Senior Executive Magistrate and comprise a senior police officer, a videographer, and armed police personnel.
  • Equipments and Resources: Equipped with dedicated vehicles, mobile phones, video cameras, and essential documents necessary for confiscating cash or goods.
  • Establishment of Check Posts: Surveillance teams erect check posts on roads, recording the entire inspection process.
  • Dynamic Location Rotation: Locations of these check posts are frequently changed to maintain an element of surprise and enhance effectiveness.
  • Enhanced Enforcement Before Polling: While check posts are operational from the announcement of polls, the final 72 hours preceding polling witness intensified enforcement efforts.

Reasons for EC Measures to Curb Money Power:

  • Regulating Campaign Expenditure: The Election Commission’s efforts aim to monitor campaign expenditure by candidates, ensuring fairness and equal opportunity among contestants.
  • Level Playing Field: By controlling expenditure, the EC seeks to provide a level playing field for all candidates participating in elections.
  • Preventing Advantage of Incumbent Governments: Measures are necessary to counteract the advantage that ruling governments may have before elections, particularly regarding advertising, to maintain fairness.

Campaign Expenditure Caps:

  • For Parliamentary Constituencies: Rs 95 lakh per constituency in larger states and Rs 75 lakh per constituency in smaller states.
  • For Assembly Constituencies: Rs 40 lakh per constituency in larger states and Rs 28 lakh per constituency in smaller states.

Rules for Carrying Cash and Other Items:

At Airports:

Reporting Cash and Bullion:

  • Authorities at airports must notify the Income Tax Department if anyone is carrying cash exceeding Rs. 10 lakh or more than 1 kg of bullion.
  • The Income Tax Department will verify the situation and take action if necessary, ensuring compliance with tax laws.
  • Cash Handling Protocol: Cash exceeding Rs. 10 lakh found in a vehicle without suspicion will be reported to the Income Tax authority for further action, rather than immediate seizure.

Rules for Vehicles Carrying Candidates, Agents, or Party Workers:

  • Confiscation Threshold: Vehicles transporting candidates, agents, or party workers with over Rs. 50,000 cash or items exceeding Rs. 10,000 in value (such as drugs, liquor, arms, or gifts) will be confiscated.
  • Suspected Crimes: Any suspicion of criminal activity during inspection will follow procedures outlined in the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), with an FIR lodged within 24 hours.

Post-Seizure Procedures:

Return of Seized Cash/Items:

  • Seized cash or items are returned if they are not associated with any candidate or criminal activity.

Deposition of Seized Money:

  • Once seized, the money is deposited as directed by the court.

Reporting to Income Tax Authority:

  • A copy of the seizure of cash exceeding Rs. 10 lakhs is forwarded to the relevant Income Tax authority for further handling.

Grievance Redressal Committee:

  • A district-level committee is established to address grievances and prevent inconvenience to the public and legitimate individuals.

Review of Seizure Cases:

 

  • The committee examines each seizure case where no FIR/complaint has been filed or where the seizure is not connected to any candidate, political party, or election campaign.
  • Immediate measures are taken by the committee to return any cash seized under these circumstances

 

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